Jake McDorman: AI fable 'Mrs. Davis' is a high-wire act of comedy, drama

Betty Gilpin and Jake McDorman star in "Mrs. Davis." Photo courtesy of Peacock
1 of 5 | Betty Gilpin and Jake McDorman star in "Mrs. Davis." Photo courtesy of Peacock

NEW YORK, May 18 (UPI) -- Jake McDorman says his character Wiley thinks it is up to him to save the world from the titular god-like artificial intelligence in Mrs. Davis, but he is actually more of the sidekick to his heroic ex-girlfriend, who is now a Catholic nun.

Wrapping up its first season Thursday on Peacock, the science vs. faith dramedy from writer-producers Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof follows Betty Gilpin's Sister Simone, as she searches for the long-lost Holy Grail Christian relic in an effort to thwart the sentient computer system that wants to eradicate people's free will for the betterment of the planet.


Wiley -- who has been leading his own team of resistance fighters against Mrs. Davis -- goes along for the ride on her quest.

"He really thinks he is the lead of his own movie. It's very clear by the way he makes his entrance, by what he wears, by the way he talks to SImone in those first couple of scenes that he thinks he is in charge and this is about him," McDorman told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"Very quickly, his ex can just take him down and start to show his vulnerabilities and poke holes in this theory that he is as cool and collected as he'd like people to think he is."

By Episode 3, the audience will know more about Wiley and just how deep his connection is to Simone.

The pair met as children in a hospital where they had both undergone liver transplants.

They became fast friends and, as adults, were engaged to be married until Simone, known as Lizzie at the time, prayed for Wiley's safety when he was competing in a rodeo, discovered her faith in God was stronger than she expected, then, quite literally, became a bride of Jesus Christ (Andy McQueen).

"You understand where [Wiley] is coming from with this resistance and his relationship to Mrs. Davis that makes him really rich [to play]. It's the kind of high-wire act that Tara and Damon are doing in writing these scripts," McDorman said.


"You have such a fun, almost cartoon-like playfulness in the comedy, but then they can tip it over to drama in equal measure and, to have Betty be the actor who walks that tightrope, I just can't imagine anyone better to do it. That trickles down to every character in the show."

McDorman said it was exciting to be part of an "out there," "hyper-real" story that asks big existential questions, particularly about the impact artificial intelligence could possibly have on faith and magic.

"These could be two casualties that are mainstays in our society," he added. "It's fascinating and cool to be talking about that."

The show is airing just as scientific experts warn about the negative impacts AI might have on society, such as manipulating behavior and subverting democracy.

"Weird timing, right? AI is not a new concept, but it seems to be in the news recently," McDorman said.

In mixing genres, Mrs. Davis also offers plenty of action-packed scenes.

So, how physically demanding was the role for McDorman?

"I didn't jump through a doughnut on a motorcycle if that is what you're asking," the actor joked.

"We have an incredible stunt coordinator who did most of those things," he added. "There is some slapstick comedy in there that was all Betty or all me, but not too physically challenging. Most of the things that might come to mind was a stunt person making me look very cool."


Reading the scripts, McDorman could imagine how spectacularly bonkers the show had the potential to be, but he also wondered if everyone involved in the ambitious project could possibly be on the same page when it came to execute it.

"There is just a million different opportunities for it to go awry. It's probably going to be expensive," he remembered thinking.

"As an actor, you have no agency over those things," McDorman added. "You just hope it ends up half as good as you imagined and half as good as the script and it was 10 times what I could have imagined by the time we actually got on set and saw all these things that people built, like a hydraulic rock in the middle of the desert. I'm so grateful that they actually [expletive] did it."

Betty Gilpin attends 'Mrs. Davis' premiere in LA

Betty Gilpin (R) and Jake McDorman attend the premiere of Peacock's "Mrs. Davis" in Los Angeles on April 13, 2023. Photo by Alex Gallardo/UPI | License Photo

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